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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise January 26, 2012

Suit bears fruit
Closure reconsidered for Clarksville P.O

CLARKSVILLE — The post office here has gotten a reprieve from its slated closure since the Postal Regulatory Commission decided that the postal service did not sufficiently consider the effect of closing.

In August, the United States Postal Service announced that it would close the rural Clarksville office.  Local lawyer Peter Henner, who depends on the office for his Clarksville law practice, filed a petition on behalf of himself and more than 30 people and six businesses in September.

The following month, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office filed a notice of intervention to oppose the closure, since it is planning to move into the now-vacant Clarksville Elementary School building.  The sheriff’s office said that it would need a functioning post office for certified letters, packages, and mailing bulky materials, according to the Jan. 19 order from the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Of Henner’s arguments, which included that the postal service did not accurately account for the number of businesses and organizations in the area and that it did not consider the actual fiscal impact, the commission wrote, “On the basis of the record before it, the Commission cannot conclude that the Postal Service has adequately considered the effect of the post office closing on the community.”

The postal service will now “have to go back and investigate these issues,” New Scotland Supervisor Thomas Dolin said.

The commission got 100 appeals for post office closures in the 2011 fiscal year and it has gotten 100 in the first quarter of the 2012 fiscal year, according to its annual report to Congress.  In 2010, it got six appeals.

Henner said this week that one in 10 requests against post office closures are remanded by the commission.  He was confident in his case for the Clarksville office, he said.  “I thought that the postal service was just flat-out wrong,” he said.

Henner hopes that the postal service will choose not to study and address the things that the commission noted as deficient, but rather let the Clarksville post office carry on.  But, he said, it may make its case again, so “we have to be prepared to submit comments again.”

This summer, the post office changed its process for evaluating office closures to a “top-down review,” said Margaret Pepe, the Postal Service’s manager for marketing and customer relations in the Albany district, which goes as far north as the Canadian border and includes 724 post offices.

“It was done nationally,” she said of the change, explaining, “With everything going on in the Post Office… we know we’re going to run out of money.”  Pepe referred to the Postal services strapped finances, leading it to petition Congress to change mail delivery to five days a week instead of six and to seek relief from its heavy pension costs.

By Saranac Hale Spencer

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